Thursday, October 26, 2017

Album Review: Serenity - Lionheart

Over the years, I've had the opportunity to listen and talk about several Serenity albums. They were a band that caught my attention when I first heard "Fallen Sanctuary", with several songs that were absolutely killer power metal of the symphonic variety. But since then, they have sputtered along as they added and dropped a female singer, and became a band that focused their music on concepts and history. It's a gimmick that hasn't worked out for them, to my ears, because what has gotten lost in the scope of the music are the fantastic moments and hooks that made them great to begin with.

"Lionheart", as the title suggests, dips into British history this time, to tell the story of Richard the Lionheart. If I'm being honest, the British monarchy might be among the very least appealing subjects for an American listener such as myself, what with us fighting a war to never have to think about the 'royals' again, which puts the record in a tough spot. But there is always the chance the music can overcome that handicap.

Things get off to a good start with "United", one of the tracks previewed before the album's release. We get a nice balance of metal and orchestral elements, and the melody in the chorus is restrained and classy. It's the kind of highly professional power metal that you would expect a veteran band like Serenity to be able to make without fail. It doesn't have the spark of their very best material, but it's rock solid and an entire album of such songs would be an easy recommendation.

Unfortunately, I don't feel the album is able to achieve that. Starting with the very next track, the title cut, the hooks don't sharpen their teeth at all. The songs are able to go by without engaging the parts of your brain and heart that want to sing along, which is what great power metal is supposed to do. There are certainly tracks here that do that, but not enough of them. That said, none of these tracks are anything less than solid, given Serenity's track record.

The biggest problem I have with the album isn't even that, though. It's the fact that they are dealing, lyrically, with the heroism and death of a king, but the music itself rarely conveys any of that. It sounds just like every other Serenity album, which does a disservice to the story. There needs to be more diversity to the pacing and tone of the music itself, to make it clear where Richard is in the course of his life. Instead, Serenity gives us traditional Serenity again and again, which is good, but not for the particular task they are trying to achieve here.

So where do I come down on "Lionheart"? It's the same case as the previous several Serenity albums. They make solid power metal, but they aim so high with their historical concepts that I don't feel they ever live up to their own expectations. By telling me this is more than just a collection of songs, it sets my sights higher than they otherwise would be. If this was just a power metal album, I would say it's certainly good enough to give a sampling to. But as a bigger conceptual work, I wanted something a bit more. "Lionheart" is good, as Serenity usually is, but I'm still waiting for them to become great. This isn't quite there.

1 comment:

  1. For years I have been listening to all Serenity albums searching for more gems such as To India's Shores. I should know by now they are not there. But strangely enough I cannot stop searching... Serenity's best is still to come. I know.